Saturday, February 25, 2012
X-men #25 - Double Bloody Awesome
When you mix teenagers and vampires, you usually start a blood war between Twilight fans and True Blood fans. It causes such an uproar that every possible medium can't resist to urge to suckle every last dime of exploration from the vampire craze teat. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sick of it, even thought I do still enjoy making Twilight jokes on this blog. However, it doesn't matter how sick you are of vampires and how much you want to gouge your eyes out every time you see an image of Edward Cullen. If a vampire story is done well, it's still worth enjoying. You wouldn't expect X-men comics to be host to such stories, but under Victor Gischler in his adjectiveless X-men run there have been some of the best vampire stories you can find without having to exploit the imagery of Anna Paquin's tits.
After a brief plunge into a politically charged plot, adjectiveless X-men has shifted gears and gone into full vampire mode. Jubilee, who was turned into a bloodsucker in the first arc of this series, had been updated by a vampire named Raizo Kodo. But he wasn't the kind of vampire that would torture newbies by making them listen to coded messages from Stephanie Meyer to help fuel their bloodlust. He was part of a group of vampires called the Unforgiven. They're basically like a Vampire AA minus the second hand smoke. And the entire last issue was spent showing Jubilee struggling with her bloodlust now that she didn't have Wolverine's blood to help taper her hunger. It didn't make for a very interesting issue. In fact, I thought it was one of Gischler's most disappointing issues in quite some time because it dragged out and was too narrow. However, it wasn't disappointing enough to make me any less intrigued by X-men #25 so I'm fully expecting something more. I'm hoping I won't be as disappointed as MC Hammer's accountant this time.
X-men #25 starts off by fixing one of the key problems with the previous issue. It actually got the other X-men involved on the first page rather than the last. While the overly bloated story with Jubilee was being dragged out, Storm and the rest of Utopia's security team were scouring the Earth in search of Jubilee. They knocked over every vampire den and Twilight fan club they could find, leaving a trail of dead vampires in their wake. It's so destructive you almost feel sorry for these bloodsuckers. Then you remember that they probably dine on the blood of missing hookers, thus causing the price of escorts to go up so in many ways the X-men are performing a valuable service here by thinning out the vampire crowd. While it may ensure that guys like me don't have to pay a couple hundred bucks for a dirty sanchez, they still are unable to find Jubilee.
That finally changes thanks to Madison Jefferies, who took his sweet time while Storm, Domino, Colossus, Warpath, and Psylocke were going on a vampire killing rampage. He finally managed to use Cerebra to track down Jubilee and without killing any vampires (as if there's any fun in that). He was able to pinpoint her movements to the South China Sea and since China is about as welcoming to foreign intruders as they are human rights advocates, they need to be very careful. Now this location isn't too big a deal, but based on what I read in the last issue it sure didn't look as though Jubilee was in China with her new vampire buddies. Then again, I may have just smoked too much weed before I read the book so I won't dwell on it.
The team arrives in a remote, semi-tropical coastal area. It looks like the kind of place where you can either find rich tourists or feeding grounds for sharks. The team makes their way onto land where they find what looks like an old missile bunker, as if the Chinese government would ever lose track of places like those. They enter and start exploring, finding out quickly that the area looks like a hotel room that Guns n' Roses rented for the night. But they do end up finding what they were looking for at least in part. They meet up with Razio Kodo and his hippie vampire team, the Unforgiven. He does try to explain himself at first, but considering he abducted one of their friends it's entirely understandable that the X-men would be a little pissed.
Storm and her team are there for Jubilee and that's all there is to it. You take one of their teammates, they kick your ass. It's as simple an equation that you can understand it even while high. Storm makes this clear when she orders the X-men to attack. It leads to the kind of poise that should make feminists all warm and fuzzy inside. But it also has a nice butt-shot for Psylocke before she takes on Razio, so I guess it balances out. The Unforgiven may be vampire hippies at heart, but they can still fight. Granted, they got outsmarted by Jubilee in the last issue, but they have a chance here to retrieve at least part of their dignity.
The Unforgiven actually prove that they're much tougher and probably smell better than most hippies as well. The fight scenes that follow are pretty elaborate and well-documented, giving every X-man a share of the action. Warpath is aggressive as you would expect, but his balls are too big for his scrotum at some points because he does get his ass kicked a few times. Domino shows off her marksmanship in addition to how well she fills out skin-tight suits, but since vampires are pretty well endowed physically (and I'm assuming that extends to their dicks) she can't get in a winning shot either. Even Storm, the one who ordered that the X-men start randomly kicking vampire ass, gets a run for her money. But there's a reason why she's the leader. When someone gives her trouble, she either shoves a lightning bolt up their ass or punches them in the face. In this case it's the latter and it works just as well as lightning.
The action is great. The fight scenes are awesome. However, aside from the mutual ass-kicking, not much else happens. Sure, there's some witty banter and a few taunts. But it's more style than substance. I know some readers are okay with that. They don't give a damn if there's no greater purpose aside from the X-men beating the shit out of vampires. For me, however, I get enough mindless action watching my neighbor fight the police whenever they find him trying to deep fry a turkey with gunpowder. It would help if style and substance were more balanced in my comics.
This fight only ends when Jubilee steps in between Psylocke and Razio, who may or may not have been hitting on her. It's only now that they can finally clear shit up and Jubilee can let the X-men know that these vampires are trying to help her. However, it becomes much deeper than that. This actually is the most powerful scene in the whole issue because just her face alone reveals how much she's struggling with her vampirism. To this point she's been relying on transfusions with Wolverine's blood to keep her blood-sucking instincts at bay. Even she understands that she can't rely on that shit forever. She needs to learn how to deal with what she's become and you know what? She's completely right. Gischler does a great job of capturing the emotion of this scene. He's the one that made Jubilee a vampire. It's only appropriate that he be the one that develops this story.
It all looks like both sides are on the path towards understanding. With Jubilee's impassioned words, they can all stop fighting, hug it out, and watch a True Blood marathon. Well, that would be too easy. Part of what made Gischler's first Regenesis arc so compelling were the twists he threw in. The last issue had none of that, but here we get something that seems unexpected if not random. Colossus, who wasn't involved in the vampire brawl, shows up with a couple of Wrecking Crew thugs in his arms. These guys aren't typical X-men characters. They're the regulars who usually get their asses kicked by the Avengers. They went up against Colossus with his Juggernaut powers and wouldn't you know it? They got their ass kicked. Moreover, they reveal something that promises to fuck their mission up even more. The Wrecking Crew along with a long list of other Marvel villains are out to collect a reward on someone's head. That head belongs to Razio Kodo.
Now I'm not entirely sure why someone would want to hunt down a hippie vampire. Probably for the same reason Richard Nixon wanted to hunt down the hippies. This whole peace shit just doesn't work for them. I mean who wants peace when needless bloodshed is so much more entertaining? I'm not sure if that's a direct quote, but I'd be shocked if a handful of politicians hadn't said it at some point in their lives. Both the X-men and the Unforgiven have to set aside the fact that they just exhausted themselves kicking one another's ass and take note that the surrounding area is now swarming with super-powered Marvel villains out for a quick payday. So I guess the hugs and True Blood marathon will have to wait.
I freely admit I was disappointed with the last issue. Before X-men Regenesis, it probably would have meant that I wouldn't have given more than three quarters of a shit about the next issue. However, Victor Gischler has shown in recent times that he's capable of invigorating this series with the kind of awesome that makes readers hold onto their balls in anticipation. He earned my confidence with the last arc. With this issue, he has shown that he's capable of honoring that confidence. That earns him both brownie points and a free line of blow if we ever meet at a comic convention. He didn't just get the rest of the X-men's security team involved as he should have in the last issue. He actually threw in a twist that got more members of the Marvel universe involved, which is supposed to be the purpose of this series to begin with. Maybe that doesn't make it a twist as much as it does a course correction, but it still works.
This issue improves on pretty much every flaw I listed with regards to the previous issue. It wasn't too narrow. It had action, coherence, and a sense of progression. If it shared one flaw it was the sense of a narrow scope. Not a whole lot happened outside the battle between the X-men and the Unforgiven. They spent a lot of pages fighting and insulting one another. That's all well and good, but that doesn't move the story forward all that much. It's just mindless spectacle and if you want that I'm sure there's at least one person in your neighborhood that has a cache of illegal fireworks. It was fun to watch, but you really didn't have to read anything that the characters were saying until Jubilee stepped in. The dialog just felt hallow, but it was still fun like said firework display.
Overall, I'm really glad that Gischler picked up the pieces from the last issue and made this issue as awesome as it needed to be. The story of Jubilee and her new life as a vampire is one that has unfolded in many ways in multiple books. It's a compelling story that has become a gateway to other stories that may or may not involve the X-men kicking the shit out of more Marvel villains. And what's not to love about that? I give X-men #25 a 4.5 out of 5. Gischler is making a strong push to have his series in the same high quality league as Wolverine and the X-men and Uncanny X-men. He's not quite there yet, but he's close to being within drunk vomiting distance. Nuff said!